One of the weirdest things about our culture is the way we obsess over photos. It seems like people are more concerned about how they look in photos than how they look in real life, and our world is filled with instagram accounts that capture the *perfect* selfie and the *perfect* meal.
Have you ever seen a photo of yourself and felt like you look terrible? I think we’ve all been there. Sometimes, seeing a photo of your body can be triggering, and it’s basically opening the door for your ED to swoop in and say some nasty things.
One of the hardest parts of recovery is accepting your body as it is: that means folds, movement, bending and all.
Here’s the thing: we are used to seeing our bodies as two dimensional things. We look in a mirror or look in a photo, and we never actually see our body in all it’s glory, which is when it moves.
If you think about it, we can move and manipulate and pose our bodies in the mirror to look how we think they should look. And in photos, we are still and posed and captured. Real life doesn’t look like that–it doesn’t look like a posed picture and it doesn’t look like a mirror. Real life is your body moving, breathing, bending, jumping, laughing, smiling.
Have you ever seen a photo of yourself from the side, or from a different angle than you’re used to? As far as I know, whenever anyone sees a photo of themselves like that they immediately *freak* out because they’re not used to seeing their body like that.
But everyone else says you look fine, because they’re used to seeing your body as it naturally is.
If you think about it, seeing a photo that you think is unflattering is basically the same thing: 100% of what we see of our bodies with our own eyes is manipulated! Photos we take of ourselves are posed just like we pose in a mirror. When someone snaps a candid photo of us, it’s not posed.
It can be hard to accept the fact that our bodies move and bounce and bend and fold and expand and get smaller. They’re LIVING *breathing* things, and it can be hard to accept that your body is just like anyone else’s: it’s just a body.
Think about it this way: when we see our bodies in a mirror, or in a selfie, even, it’s normally straight on, meaning we see our face looking straight forward. I think we get used to seeing our bodies from this ONE angle, and then when we see photos of ourselves from any different *NORMAL LIFE* angle, it makes us feel like we’re *bigger* or more *this* more *that* and it stresses us out.
Unfortunately, this stuff isn’t necessarily easy. I always try to remember one thing: any one picture will not capture my body how it actually is. A photo is a still captured moment of the life I’m painting for myself every day. A photo will never actually capture everything.
On a very different side of this equation, I think that there’s something to be said about how we view our bodies when we’re looking at a photo of ourselves. We all do it: we take a group shot and everyone looks at just themselves to determine whether the photo is “good” or not.
Honestly, I believe that when we look at photos, we’re already in that judgmental head space and ready to attack. It’s like the whole time we take the photo, we’re gearing up and getting ready to *hate* what we see. Maybe if we just focused on capturing the memory, the emotion, all that *good* stuff, maybe we wouldn’t get so caught up in how our arms look.
When we stand there, taking a photo, and waiting to hate the outcome, we’re pouring metaphorical fuel on the eating disorder fire. We’re letting the ED voice get louder and louder and then we look at the photo and *BOOM* we knew it, we look terrible! (But we actually don’t.)
So my suggestion is this: next time you look at a photo of yourself, just look. Don’t judge. Don’t moralize. Don’t rate it. Don’t label it, categorize it, don’t over analyze. Just look.
While this might be hard, and it’s definitely going to be one of those things that takes time to really practice, I think it’ll be a good start to just accepting that our bodies look different at different times. They’re not perfect, they’re always going to move and change and adjust.
Besides, a perfectly posed body 24/7 would probably look really awkward.
(Here’s a neat article I found by a photographer actually explaining some of the ins and outs of taking photos, and how *looking good* in a photo is basically a art form in and of itself. I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t think about how to take flattering photos of ourselves or others, but we do. Just be forewarned that you don’t have to always look “flattering.”)